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By Tom Winter, Ken Dilanian and Rich Schapiro
Paul Manafort, President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, told the special counsel’s office multiple lies after he agreed to cooperate in the Russia probe, including that he had no contact with Trump administration officials, according to court papers filed Friday.
Manafort claimed to Robert Mueller’s investigators that he only spoke with certain people before or after they worked for the Trump administration, the special counsel’s office said in a sentencing memo.
“The evidence demonstrates that Manafort lied about his contacts,” according to the memo.
The court papers refer to a May 26 text exchange in which Manafort authorized an unidentified person to speak with an administration official on the former Trump campaign chairman’s behalf. Mueller’s office also said a colleague of Manafort’s told investigators that Manafort himself said that he had been in contact with a senior administration official up through February 2018.
The memo says Manafort had 12 meetings with the FBI and Mueller’s team. Manafort’s false statements were “not instances of mere memory lapses,” according to the court filing.
“If the defendant contends that the government has not acted in good faith, the government is available to prove the false statements at a hearing,” says the memo, which does not offer a sentencing recommendation.
Mueller was expected to come down hard on Manafort, 69, after he was accused of breaking a plea deal by lying to the FBI and the special counsel’s office.
Mueller’s team said Manafort committed “federal crimes” by lying about a “variety of subject matters” in breach of his agreement to cooperate fully with the investigation.
Manafort’s lawyers offered a different take, saying he provided truthful information to federal investigators and lived up to his terms of the agreement.
With the plea deal in tatters, Mueller’s office had no obligation to inform the court about any helpful cooperation he may have provided, which could have lessened his sentence.
A longtime GOP operative known for his dapper suits and deep ties to Russia, Manafort suffered a precipitous fall in the past year.
In August, a Virginia federal court jury convicted him of eight counts mostly related to bank and tax fraud in what was the first public test of the special counsel’s investigation. The jury deadlocked on 10 other counts but the result still carried severe consequences for Manafort who was facing at least seven years in prison on the eight counts.
Prosecutors had built a case that Manafort for years hid millions from U.S. tax authorities in overseas accounts, spending the money to maintain a lavish lifestyle — replete with luxury cars and a $15,000 ostrich skin jacket — and lying to banks to generate more cash.
Then in September, Manafort agreed to cooperate with the special counsel’s office as part of a plea deal to avoid a second trial on financial fraud charges in Washington D.C.
Manafort pleaded guilty to conspiracy against the U.S. — involving money laundering, failing to register foreign lobbying work and other crimes — as well as conspiracy to obstruct justice as part of an effort to influence witness testimony after he was indicted last year.
Lawyers for Manafort said his health has deteriorated while locked up in a Virginia jail. Manafort showed up to an October court hearing in a wheelchair with a bandage wrapped around his right foot.
In an interview with the New York Post last week, the president declined to rule out pardoning Manafort, who was a key figure in the Trump campaign for five months beginning in March 2016.